Step 2: What style of art to collect?

posted in: Buying Art | 8

Art painting styles or art style movements is a vast and fascinating topic. Personally I have always found it very intimidating.  With fancy names like Fauvism, Constructivism, Suprematism , Cubism and Surrealism who would not be intimidated?

In step 1 of “How to build your own art collection” we worked together on answering the question “What kind of art am I attracted to?”.  Now we are going to match our attraction to an art style movement.  So first, using an art movement timeline,  let’s look at some of the different art style movements.

Byzantine(330-1450):  Our rulers say Christianity is the state religion and our art is strictly controlled to ensure it says the same.  Mosaics of Christ. CimabueByzantine

Gothic(1150-1400): We have strong religious beliefs and depict bible stories.  Statues, panel paintings, stained glass and frescoes.  LorenzettiGothic

International Gothic(1375-1425): We are more sensual and soft. Illuminated manuscripts, miniatures and royal portraits with saints and angels.  MartiniInternational Gothic

Early Renaissance(1400-1450):  We are less rigid and more naturalistic.  Our humans have facial expressions and are doing everyday activities.  We use light and shadows.  MasaccioEarly Renaissance

High Renaissance(1480-1520): We rebirth classical art.  We show accuracy and beauty.  We focus on interpretation and meaning.  Da VinciHigh Renaissance

Mannerism(1520-1580): We show the response to beauty.  We exaggerate poses, use eclectic models, elaborate clothes and elongate proportions. MichelangeloMannerism

Northern Renaissance(1420-1520): We go deeper and focus on meticulous detail and symbolic meaning.  Royals with intricate detailed crowns or scenes of heaven and hell full of deeper meanings.  Hieronymous BoschNothern Renaissance

Baroque(1600-1700): We want state and church to have the power again. We glorify them by showing dramatic events and focus on emotional involvement using exaggerated light and grandeur.  Battle scenes. CaravaggioBaroque

Rococo(1700-1775): We want to be more decorative playful and witty.  We use delicate colours, curving forms, gold, cherubs and myths of love. Portraits depicting impurity or naughtiness.  Scenes of leisurely pursuits. BoucherRococo

Dutch Art(1620-1670): We are Protestants and realists.  We paint still life, portraits , historical scenes and landscapes.  RembrandtDutch Art

Neo Classicism(1765-1850): We think all your decorative swirly art is self indulgent.  We are enlightened.  We draw inspiration from the classical style of ancient Greece and Rome.  We paint noble simplicity and calm grandeur. Gods, nudes and noble portraits.  MengsNeo Classicism

Romanticism(1765-1850): Enough of your enlightenment.  We celebrate freedom of expression.   Emotion is more important than reason.  We are in awe of the feelings nature evokes.  Landscapes.  TurnerRomanticism

Realism(1840-1880): We paint real life, warts and all.  We paint common labourers and real people going about there everyday business.  Farm workers, fisherman,  drinkers in an inn.  CourbetRelism

Pre-Raphaelite(1848-1854): We like the artists before Raphael.  We paint accurate and abundant detail, use vibrant colours, study nature closely and use poetic symbolism.  Female portraits in gardens with many flowers. RossettiPre-Raphaelite

Impressionism(1870-1890): We paint in the open air catching the moment and the light using small colourful brush stokes and don’t blend them in.  We imitate nature.  Colourful sunsets, waterlilies.  MonetImpressionism

Post Impressionism(1885-1905):  We also like colour but we show our emotions and feelings in our paintings.  Some of us use longer stokes and others just dots.  Windy night skies, water scenes, fields.  Van GoghPost Impressionism

Fauvism(1905-1910): We are “the wild beasts”.  We use bold magical colours and wild brush strokes.  Through bold colour we express our inner feelings. Landscape with orange trees, yellow fields, red skies and blue mountains. Matisse.Fauvism

German Expressionism(1905-1925):  We do not want to replicate nature but show our inner feelings.  Some of us depict radical social views and others believe we are prophets.  Some of us paint the insane and others use colour to inject art with spiritual values.  People with bold outlines and distorted shapes.  KandinskyGerman Expressionism

Cubism(1907-1915): We take a picture of the same object from various angles and then trying to piece the pictures together to from one image.  The image has many angles and is distorted but you can still identify the original object.  PicassoCubism

Futurism(1909-1914):  We celebrate industry, technology and modernity. Our paintings are abstract, colourful and full of movement.  Imagine taking photos of a racing cyclist and then trying to put them all together to form one speeding image.  BoccioniFuturism

Constructivism(1913-1930):  We say art is not created to represent beauty or feelings.  Art needs to focus on practicality.  Look at the different ways of using steel to design a modern tower block that can be produced for the mass use of the people.  LissitzkyConstuctivism

Suprematism(1915-1925): We take an image and then break it down to basic geometric forms like circles, squares and rectangles using limited colours.  What is important is not the object but the pure artistic feeling it invokes.  MalevichSuprematism

De Stijl(1917-1931): Neoplasticism (new plastic art).  We represent an image by drawing horizontal and vertical lines across a canvas and then colouring in some of the blocks by using primary colours (red, blue, yellow, black).  Rays of a sun = vertical black lines, earth moving around the sun = horizontal black lines, energy of sun = yellow block, sky = blue block.  All elements are in harmony.  MondrianDe Stijl

Dada(1916-1922): We are disgusted by war and politics and want to free art from the constraints of a corruptive society.  We make art by creating chaos and breaking all the rules of what the art world says art is.  Cut out random words and imagines from a newspaper and stick it on a canvas.  Put a urinal on display and call it art.  HausmannDada

Surrealism(1924-1939): We say allow yourself to dream.   Free yourself from reality.  Tap into your unconscious mind and create magical art.  Turn everyday objects into magical creatures.  DaliSurrealism

Abstract Expressionism(1946-1956): We say it is time for action.  Do not paint the detail of the object but capture the glorious spirit of the object. Splash, drip and throw paint at a canvas.  PollockAbstract Expressionism

Pop Art(1954-1970):  After a second world war we need positivity.  Forget about “fine art” and have fun with popular mass culture.  Recreate Marilyn Monroe in bright colours.  Use irony and make fun of advertising by painting soup tins.  Expand images from comic books by using dots onto a huge canvas.  WarholPop Art

Op Art(1964-1970): Optical art.  We make visual art that creates optical illusions of movement.  By using different sized patterns, thick and thin lines or angles the brain struggles to distinguish between foreground and background and as a result the image appears to be three dimensional. VasarelyOp Art

Minimalism(1960-1975):  We say away with your busy art and loud colours. More is less.  Less is more.  A block of blue exposes the essence and basic elements of the object.  All the non essential forms and features have been stripped away.  KleinMinimalism

Stop, stop my head hurts!!!  Wow, that was very interesting but, it sure was a lot to take in.  Time for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Ah, that is better.  So, now that we know a bit more about all the different art styles movements, let’s try to match them with our own art attraction.

By referring back to your notebook, read through the list we made in Step 1 under the header “I like this” where you identified what art you are attracted to.  Per the example it was:

  • dreamlike art
  • abstract art
  • bright colours

Next create a new header in your notebook “My art Style Movements“.  By running through the above art style movements, find the movements that most closely match with your likes and write them down with a reason for your choice. For example:

My art Style Movements

  • Surrealism – dream like
  • Fauvism – bright magical colours and inner feelings
  • Cubism – abstract image

Congratulations, you are now a culture vulture.  Not only do you know what kind of art you are attracted to but you now also know what art style movements you are attracted to.

So is one art style movement better than another or, is one more collectable than another?  The answer is, this is the wrong question.

We are all fabulously unique.  We like different things and that variety is just wonderful.  What is important is that when we collect, we allow ourselves to be lead by our hearts.  There will always be people out there with similar art attractions to you and as a result there will always be a resale market.  In general art holds its value.  The money side of collecting art is important but it should not be the driving force.

I will continue this journey via posts and blogs, similar to this page, in which I will be addressing step-by-step action plans and further advice on building your own art collection.

Love what you collect and it will  give you endless joy.

Enjoy the  journey here at



8 Responses

  1. Linda OConnor

    Absolutely wonderful how much beautiful art history you’ve presented here. I’m definitely going to come back to this site when I have a chance to really spend some time. You’ve done an excellent job with the organization and presentation.

    • Thanks Linda. It was not an easy topic and I spent many days doing research for it but I learnt a lot along the way.

  2. Hey Martin!

    I helped my roommate proof-read two separate essays on the Pre-Raphaelite painting and its interpretation and the one right under Baroque. I am not kidding you!! He is taking Art History as a major in university.

    Great collection you’ve presented here.

    • Wow that is a coincidence, especially as there are so many artworks to choose from. Glad you liked the collection.

  3. Excellent timeline. You presented it so well! The first person descriptions do their job. I came in knowing absolutely nothing, and now I think I’m actually a “culture vulture!” Great work Martin.

    I’d have to say my favorite is the realism. That’s the one that resonates with me the most. The more surreal ones are kinda opaque to me. I guess I’m not that enlightened. One thing I noticed was in the last 200 years, art styles were popular for much less time. The early ones lasted hundreds of years. Any reason as to why?

    • Haha, a fellow culture vulture arises…

      Realism had a lot of criticism. Many considered it ugly and even vulgar. I suppose it opened the doors to art for the people and not just the elite. It is truthful and brave. Instead of adding beauty and personal interpretation it celebrates the moment and the subject just as it is. A lot to be said for that.

      Re the lifespan of styles, I think the reason styles lasted longer in the past is that there was a lot more control by state and church. I am sure there were more styles but it is mostly religious and stately art that has been preserved for us to study today. Also people did not travel much so were not exposed to different artists and their styles. Today, in a time of connectivity, we all know who is doing what. Paint is readily available. We celebrate the new. Fashionability changes at an alarming rate. And now in a digital age the possibilities are endless.

  4. What a wonderful, enjoyable, accessible website. I have thoroughly enjoyed looking over it in detail this morning.
    You make all aspects of art appreciation so interesting and inspiring – I can’t wait to get my next gallery visit in. I’m going to see Georgia O’Keefe at Tate Modern next weekend and I am going to go heeding your pointers. I am excited already.
    Thank you.

    • Thank you, I am glad you liked it. Art needs to be enjoyable and inspiring. Hope you enjoy the Georgia O’Keefe exhibition at Tate Modern. What fascinated me about her was her relationship with her house in the middle of almost a desert environment. Enjoy

Leave a Reply